Andy Puzder, the CEO of Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, is quoted in this article complimenting the idea of a fully-automated fast food restaurant. Clearly coveting it, in fact.
The technology which would go into such automation is probably pretty cool and it could be useful to think about what it might mean for our future be it good, bad or neutral. But Puzder is not talking about the technology itself or weighing its wider implications. He’s salivating over how it could rid him of pesky employees:
“They’re always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case,” says Puzder of swapping employees for machines.”
If Puzder has his way, people will clearly lose their jobs to automation at his company. And it’d be their fault, really, for wanting a higher wage:
“This is the problem with Bernie Sanders, and Hillary Clinton, and progressives who push very hard to raise the minimum wage,” says Puzder. “Does it really help if Sally makes $3 more an hour if Suzie has no job?”
Puzder, by the way, is the author of a book about job creation. And apparently is unaware of how the largest company in his industry recently raised wages for its employees and noticed that an increase in sales and productivity followed. Henry Ford figured that same general thing out too once upon a time, but I suppose there are no lessons for a businessman as esteemed as Puzder to learn from Ford or McDonald’s.
The idea of automation is not inherently evil. There are costs and benefits to it which can be debated. Given the seeming inevitability of technological advancement, those costs and benefits should be robustly debated, in fact, and any talk of automation should include talk of the fate of those workers who are displaced by it. Their fate as human beings is one the potential costs, you see, not simply a benefit to Mr. Puzder’s bottom line. Moreover if, as should be the case, talk of their fate includes figuring out how to help them move into new jobs created by technology, rather than just out of jobs eliminated by it, there could be new benefits here people like Puzder never even consider.
No, automation is not inherently evil. But the values and intentions of many who are in favor of automation certainly can be. Read the comments of this man. Note how he defines workers solely in terms of how they inconvenience and annoy him and ask yourself if he sees them as human beings as opposed to less-efficient machines than the HamburgerTron 6000 he plans to put online in his restaurants one day.
Then realize that the full automation he admires will not happen for his company anytime soon and ask yourself: how do you think he treats the 20,000 workers he has in the meantime? Ask yourself if, his helpful little example notwithstanding, he gives a rat’s ass about Sally or Suzie.